Stories from Possum Ridge: Joy Theater

The train town of Possum Ridge has been a holiday tradition in the capital city for nearly forty years. Its running trains and detailed model buildings have delighted both children and adults every December. This series explores the history of the town and the stories behind its buildings as related to us by Lucky Osborne, who built most of the town himself. Osborne continues to volunteer his time to maintain the town and read from A Special Visitor Comes to Possum Ridge,” the children’s book inspired by the exhibit.

Joy Theater in town of Possum Ridge. On exhibit at the Winter Building in Jackson from December 5-22, 2011.
Joy Theater in town of Possum Ridge (From the prop collection of the Museum Division, MDAH)

Lucky Osborne has been working with the Possum Ridge model train town since 1975, when Patti Carr Black, then curator of exhibits at the Old Capitol Museum, asked him to build a model town to enhance the existing train exhibit that ran around the Christmas tree in the Old Capitol. Osborne immediately began making ten buildings that made up a downtown block of stores. Possum Ridge received an enthusiastic response from the public.

However, by 1998 the town was in need of repairs and Osborne again volunteered his time to rebuild Possum Ridge.  Although some of the original buildings remain, he has added new ones over the years. Many of them have special significance because they recall Osborne’s family or people with whom he has worked at MDAH.

Joy Theater

The original Joy Theater was located in Belzoni, Mississippi. Osborne remembers visiting it as a child because his grandfather worked nearby and would use the theater as a babysitter of sorts. It was located in a block of buildings and he built the model from his memories of its appearance. Osborne used a Tarzan movie poster because it was a popular movie in that era and he remembered seeing it several times at Joy Theater.

The model train town of Possum Ridge and historic Christmas trees and toys are on display Monday, noon–4:30 p.m., Tuesday–Friday, 9 a.m.–4:30 p.m., and Saturdays, 9 a.m.–12:30 p.m. through December 22 on the first floor of the William F. Winter Archives and History Building at the corner of North and Amite streets in Jackson. Tours for school groups are available by reservation Tuesday–Friday, December 6–16, 9 a.m.–noon. For information call 601-576-6800.